Photoexcitation in two-dimensional topological insulators
Generating and controlling electron wavepackets in Quantum Spin Hall systems
Dipartimento di Scienza Applicata e Tecnologia,
Politecnico di Torino corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24,
10129 Torino, Italy
a e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received in final form: 23 May 2018
Published online: 11 October 2018
One of the most fascinating challenges in Physics is the realization of an electron-based counterpart of quantum optics, which requires the capability to generate and control single electron wave packets. The edge states of quantum spin Hall (QSH) systems, i.e., two-dimensional (2D) topological insulators realized in HgTe/CdTe and InAs/GaSb quantum wells, may turn the tide in the field, as they do not require the magnetic field that limits the implementations based on quantum Hall effect. However, the band structure of these topological states, described by a massless Dirac fermion Hamiltonian, prevents electron photoexcitation via the customary vertical electric dipole transitions of conventional optoelectronics. So far, proposals to overcome this problem are based on magnetic dipole transitions induced via Zeeman coupling by circularly polarised radiation, and are limited by the g-factor. Alternatively, optical transitions can be induced from the edge states to the bulk states, which are not topologically protected though.
Here we show that an electric pulse, localized in space and/or time and applied at a QSH edge, can photoexcite electron wavepackets by intra-branch electrical transitions, without invoking the bulk states or the Zeeman coupling. Such wavepackets are spin-polarised and propagate in opposite directions, with a density profile that is independent of the initial equilibrium temperature and that does not exhibit dispersion, as a result of the linearity of the spectrum and of the chiral anomaly characterising massless Dirac electrons. We also investigate the photoexcited energy distribution and show how, under appropriate circumstances, minimal excitations (Levitons) are generated. Furthermore, we show that the presence of a Rashba spin–orbit coupling can be exploited to tailor the shape of photoexcited wavepackets. Possible experimental realizations are also discussed.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature, 2018